Apple just released its iOS 7.06 upgrade, and in a recent comment, someone complained about losing your ability to “jail break” your device. Well, you can unlock just about any device, but is it worth it? You could be sacrificing data security.
The more we learn about data breaches at large companies and financial institutions, the more we start to realize how vulnerable we are and how much more we need to protect our information.
Technically, unlocking phones is illegal. When you have a contract with a carrier, they essentially have offered you a discount on device, usually a smartphone, in return for using their network. Unlocking your phone or device from their network to use other carriers breaks the contract.
We don’t offer legal advice. We offer technical advice and services that we hope will make you smarter users of your devices. So, let’s look at the security aspects.
The process of unlocking your smartphone, also known as jail breaking, decrypts all the data on your phone. It also removes all of the manufacturer’s restrictions and allows a phone to be used on any network. That’s the benefit you hoped to gain, especially when traveling abroad, where different cellular protocols can be used.
However, these unlocked phones carry a higher security risk than standard phones due to the changes to the operating system needed to make this occur. Once you use that phone to access the Internet, you and your phone are open to malware, spyware and just about any other tool you can think of that hackers can use to get personal data.
If that doesn’t stop you from thinking about jail-breaking your phone and/or device, consider this: You don’t know what security laws may apply when your data are breached in another country. Even though redress through a legal system may be possible, it will be after the fact. Damage can be done, and nobody can tell you what your liabilities may be and what any redresses can cover.
If you are traveling abroad, check with your carrier about capabilities. In many cases, your phone or device will work on Wi-Fi networks – though they may be public networks just like those from your local coffee shop. Wi-Fi Internet can allow you to talk to people over through services such as Facetime, Skype or Viber, and to access your email, bank and charge accounts and business files. Of course, you should make sure ahead of time that your device will be secured, and security can be enhanced through two-factor authentication systems.
In some cases, such as traveling to China, you may be better off leaving your phone or device home or having it shut off completely. Many business and government travelers to China and some other countries simply buy or rent a phone – with none of the information on their current phones and devices – for one-time use in those countries. Vacationers should follow their lead.
Contact us – phone: 973-433-6676 email: [email protected] – with any questions you have about securing your phones and devices while traveling.
This article was published in Technology Update, the monthly newsletter from Sterling Rose LLC.